WASHINGTON, July 24, 2016 – Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation today as DNC chair. She had rejected demands for months that she go, but her departure became a nearly foregone conclusion when WikiLeaks put almost 20,000 hacked DNC emails online.
Bernie Sanders began calling for her resignation early in the Democratic nominating season. He accused her of bias toward the Clinton campaign, initially with regard to a limited debate schedule that denied him prime-time opportunities to appeal to voters and limited Clinton’s chances to make a negative impression.
Speculation that Schultz would resign was quashed in May, with Democratic staffers expressing concern that her resignation just two months before the convention would throw the party into chaos, and observing that it would create unnecessary negative publicity if she resigned afterward.
The Clinton campaign might have asked her to resign, but Clinton rejected calls to force Schultz out. At that time Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN, “From our viewpoint, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a very dedicated leader for our party.”
The leaked emails proved DNC bias, however, and showed that the bias went beyond mere favoritism to discussions about how to sabotage the Sanders campaign.
Sanders was outraged over the WikiLeaks revelations and demanded Schultz’s immediate departure. This time there was no argument over difficulties this might inflict on the DNC. The bigger concern was the presidential campaign. Clinton needs Sanders’ unstinting support, and the possibility that he might not give it in his convention speech undoubtedly focused minds at the DNC.
On Sunday morning it was announced that Schultz would not preside over the convention and that she would relinquish her slot as a speaker; she insisted that she would not resign as DNC chair before November. Later in the day, she announced her resignation.
“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future. I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory,” she said in a statement. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”
Schultz will be replaced by Donna Brazile, the DNC vice chair, in an interim capacity.
Reports said that Schultz would be a convention speaker after all. That may not be a good idea. John Morgan, a longtime Clinton supporter from Florida and Schultz foe said in an email to the Miami Herald, “If she tries to speak the boos will rival those of Trump himself if he tried to speak.”
He told CNN, “The Sanders people have a right to be angry because these emails convey their worst suspicions—that Wasserman Schultz is to Democratic dirty tricks what Richard Nixon was for Republican dirty tricks.”
Sanders said today that he will continue to support Clinton. Democratic leaders are united in their emphasis on the importance of defeating Donald Trump.
The concerns of last spring remain valid; Schultz’s departure leaves the DNC in some disarray, though she had been winding down her role since May. The disarray will provide some schadenfreude to Republicans. When the GOP convention seemed about to derail, Schultz snarkily tweeted to RNC Chair Reince Priebus“I’m in Cleveland if you need another chair to help keep your convention in order.”
But the disarray is unlikely to have a major impact on the presidential election if Clinton and Sanders act decisively to stop it. If it has an impact, it is more likely to be felt down-ticket, and one of those down-ticket races is for Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s own House seat. She faces her first primary challenger in 24 years, progressive Tim Canova, Sanders’ choice in that race.
In her role as DNC chair, Shultz wasn’t just in a position to help Clinton, but to help herself. Canova’s name appears in 70 of those DNC emails, and he claims that Schultz used her position to promote her own campaign. That would be a violation of campaign finance laws.
Canova told Politico, “We think there might have been a violation of the law and we’re checking with lawyers. I might file an FEC.”
Schultz has been an increasingly divisive figure in the DNC and a lightning rod for Republican digs. She is being shunted from the big stage, though, and there’s a good chance that after November, we won’t have Debbie Wasserman Schultz to kick around anymore.